Perfecting the Military-to-Academia Transition.
By Beth Morgan
For many who selflessly sacrificed for our country, going to college or earning an advanced degree seems out of reach. They might worry their grades aren’t good enough or they didn’t prepare earlier in life for getting an education. As the costs of higher education skyrocket, many fear the education they need to start their dream career just might be too expensive.
Without question, however, our active duty servicemembers and veterans have unique gifts, which make them stand out from other applicants, from leadership skills to strong work ethics. Service to School (S2S), a non-profit organization, is proud to help make those gifts known to prospective colleges and universities across America. It all starts with the applicant understanding and appreciating all they have to offer an academic community.
Service to School provides free application counseling to military veterans. Our goal is to help veterans win admission to the best institutions possible and to help them maximize their education benefits. This is achieved by employing the “T.R.A.I.N.” method: providing quality test preparation, offering résumé and transcript review, assisting in the application and essay process, preparing individuals for interviews and fostering networking relationships. Along the way, applicants receive guidance from experts and other veterans to navigate the process. We understand the transition from warrior to student can often pose its own challenges, and we stand ready to provide support for our heroes now in the classroom. We provide all of this at no cost to the applicant.
We are inspired by the results we have already achieved. Prior to the Fall 2016 admission cycle, Service to School assisted 20 undergraduate applicants gain admission to college since its founding in 2010. Because we saw a great need to assist enlisted men and women obtain their undergraduate degree, we’ve dedicated much of our resources with them in mind. As a result, for the Fall 2016 admission cycle, we assisted 85 undergraduate applicants gain admission to a four-year university. This includes admission to many highly selective universities and colleges including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, Brown, Williams, Smith, Notre Dame, Berkeley, and Amherst. In total, Service to School has served more than 300 active duty servicemembers and veterans who sought higher education, including law and MBA students.
Most importantly, Service to School is transforming the lives of those to whom we dedicate our service. One such student is Tony Grant, a Mississippian who was tired of working dead-end jobs and wanted better for his life. In the U.S. Air Force, he learned three languages working as an analyst in the intelligence community.
Grant wanted to translate his language aptitude into a diplomatic job with the State Department. He knew he needed an education to accomplish that goal. With the help of S2S ambassador Sean O’Grady, Grant, who once had been discouraged by a lower than average ACT score, earned a spot at Yale University.
“S2S provided the confidence I lacked to seek schools outside of my comfort zone and realize what I have to offer,” Grant said. “My ambassador coached me in the art of military-to-civilian writing to the point where I am comfortable doing the same for others.”
Eric O’Connor has also benefitted from the guidance of ambassador O’Grady. The Army communications specialist wanted to finish his undergraduate degree and earn a Master’s in Business Administration. His heart was set on Columbia University, but it had been quite some time since O’Connor wrote academically.
That’s where Service to School stepped in. S2S helped O’Connor with personal essay and interview preparation, as well as remaining diligent with the admissions office at Columbia. Today, O’Connor is living his dream at Columbia University’s School of General Studies, and he credits S2S for helping him make it happen.
“Without all the help and support, I don’t know if this would have been a first time go,” O’Connor explained. “S2S is truly a unique program offering servicemembers unparalleled help and opportunities to help brighten our future.”
Navy Hospital Corpsman Piragash Swargaloganthan also desired a brighter future. He was attending community college but wanted to pursue a fuller education to prepare him for medical school. Unfortunately, Swargaloganthan had no formal guidance or knowledge of the higher educational process.
Service to School Ambassador Saamon Legoski changed that. He helped Swaraloganthan find the right school that fit his needs. S2S also reviewed his application essays and provided suggestions for improvement, and helped him complete his entire application package. Throughout the process, S2S offered him support as he wrapped up his community college experience.
S2S connected him via VetLink, a program bridging the gap between veterans and interested schools, to institutions that saw value in his specialized skills. As a result of his hard work and the efforts of his S2S support team, Swaraloganthan was awarded admission to Cornell’s College of Human Ecology. He also received a 100 percent need-based financial aid package.
“Service to School gave me the guidance and knowledge to be a successful applicant to a highly selective institution,” he said. “Without the help of this organization, I cannot imagine this would have happened.”
Stephen Fraser, a Marine data technician, is the first person in his family to go to college. In fact, he never thought he’d go to college at all. Now he’s at Dartmouth College, due in part to the support he received from S2S.
Thanks to a Service to School testing preparation scholarship, Fraser raised his SAT score from 1570 to 1790. S2S provided guidance on how to improve his admissions essays and helped him build an academic network. The organization even provided guidance in determining which school was right for him.
“Service to School enabled me to realize my potential, earn admission to my dream school and chase my aspirations,” Fraser explained. “I would not be where I am without S2S and through their investment in me, my life has been changed forever.”
Benton Leary served in the Navy as a Submarine Reactor Operator and made the decision to apply to go back to college while on active duty during a strenuous reactor refuel and engine-room overhaul. He needed assistance since he had to position his newfound experiences against a relatively poor high school performance, and time was at a premium just to get his application completed.
Service to School stepped up with the support Leary needed, not only providing constructive feedback on the direction his applications should take, but also introducing him to interested schools he had not actively been pursuing previously, resulting in numerous college opportunities. Leary ended up gaining acceptance and selecting to attend Williams College. He was even awarded a grant to cover any costs in attending Williams not covered by the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.
Leary tells it this way, “Service to School’s mentorship allowed me to perfect my applications and maximize my admission possibilities; without their help I would not have been able to start my education at a top-tier school.”
There are countless stories like this from the beneficiaries of Service to School. With the help of committed donors and community partners, S2S hopes to assist even more brave men and women as they pursue their academic passions. We are confident our tailored approach meets the needs of those returning to academia best and our constant mentorship provides the support these warriors need.
With so many of the world’s top companies actively recruiting those with military service, we are delighted to help them achieve the academic success to enrich their lives and advance their careers. They have served us. Now, it is our turn to serve them.
Beth Morgan is the executive director of Service to School. For more information, visit www.Service2School.org.
- Issue: 11
- Volume: 6